[Nyerges is the author of several books including “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and “Enter the Forest.” He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]
A small group of us were discussing the upcoming Hallowe’en event, this coming Monday. Everyone present had already expressed that they would not be a participant in costumes, candies, and parties in a wild night of frenzied festivity. Was there a better way to commemorate this uniquely ancient festival?
One of our group pointed out that this day had long been a special time to remember the dead. The eating of lots of candy and trying to scare others was a modern invention. In the olden days, this was probably more of a private home event, rather than a public activity. According to some records, there were public fires on this feast of Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), and people went out and visited friends. But the real essence of the day was simply to remember those who have died.
When our small group discussed this today, we started wondering what it might look like if we were to do that. We determined that if we wanted to treat the day as a special day to remembrance, we could gather and just sit quietly, and perhaps privately, for 30 minutes or so, and “be with” a chosen loved one who has passed away.
Since none of us was intending to be a part of some party environment, with a lot of junk food and screaming, we discussed what we might actually do on October 31.
First, we generally thought that it would be good to be outdoors, probably in someone’s back yard, and there would be a safe fire in one of those stand-alone fire pits. Then, we’d bring some appropriate refreshments. The main part would be that each of us would sit quietly in the yard for awhile, and recall a departed loved one. This could be a parent, a child, a spouse, a close friend. We could talk out loud or silently to this departed one. No, we wouldn’t expect an answer, but we’d listen for “responses” nevertheless – a bird squacking, a rustling of leaves, unusual lights, a loud distant noise.
Mostly, we saw ourselves remembering the departed one,, and recalling who they were, and what they meant to us, and how they changed our lives.
Then, after each of us did this with one or two people, we’d all re-gather, share some tea and squash soup, and talk about our experiences around the fire.
It’s only Thursday as I write this so we will see how this turns out and what sort of experience we’ll all have. If any of you are inspired to try this more thoughtful approach to this ancient festival, please write to me and let me know how it turned out.